Appendix 3

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Appendix 3

Report on a matter of parliamentary privilege

1.1        As noted in the first chapter of this report, a matter of parliamentary privilege arose during this inquiry.

1.2        Senate Parliamentary Privilege resolution 1(18) provides that:

Where a committee has any reason to believe that any person has been improperly influenced in respect of evidence which may be given before the committee, or has been subjected to or threatened with any penalty or injury in respect of any evidence given, the committee shall take all reasonable steps to ascertain the facts of the matter. Where the committee considers that the facts disclose that a person may have been improperly influenced or subjected to or threatened with penalty or injury in respect of evidence which may be or has been given before the committee, the committee shall report the facts and its conclusions to the Senate.

1.3        A person who had made a submission to the inquiry drew the committee's attention to a letter dated 13 October 2008 that he had received from a representative of a legal firm. The letter contained the following statement:

Our client reserves its rights to take action in relation to any defamatory or libellous comments in the written submission, and is concerned to ensure that your client does not repeat them in verbal comments to the Federal inquiry. Given this warning, our client will view any repeat of the allegations to be deliberate and calculated to defame it. 

1.4        The correspondence received by the committee provided clear evidence that the person who had made the submission was being threatened with a 'penalty or injury' as a direct result of making that submission.

1.5         When this letter was brought to the committee's attention, the committee directed the committee secretary to write, as a matter of urgency, to the person who wrote the letter that threatened the submitter, and warn them that the letter may constitute a contempt of Parliament and a criminal offence. This was done the same day, on 15 October 2008.

1.6        On 16 October, the committee received a response advising that the letter of 13 October had been unconditionally withdrawn. In that response, the writer also unreservedly apologised on behalf of himself and his clients. The committee was also provided with a copy of a letter sent to the person who had made the complaint to the committee, putting into effect the undertakings given to the committee and offering conciliatory terms. 

1.7        The committee considers this to have been a serious incident. However, the committee has concluded that the purpose of the parliamentary resolutions, which is to protect witnesses, has been fulfilled. As such, the committee does not consider that any further action in relation to this matter is warranted.

1.8        For the completeness of the record, the committee has attached all correspondence received and sent in relation to this matter in the following pages.


Mr Bernie Ripoll MP

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